Friday 10 July 2015

Say Yes to the Vest!

It didn’t seem fair to leave the men out of the equation with our wedding dress post last week and so it was deemed that a sequel was necessary! When most of us take the time to think about men dressing up in suits or tuxedos, the occasions that come to mind are weddings, proms, church or special gatherings. Once upon a time men actually wore a suit of sorts daily. Surprisingly enough they had different variations to their outfits depending on the time of day – I know many of you will not believe this as you think of your own husbands and the fight you may go through just to get them to wear dress pants! Well ladies, I’m not lying to you, at one point in time men put quite a bit of thought into their outfits. During the early 1900s, or the Edwardian era, fashion was determined by the time of day. From morning until noon men were to be seen wearing their morning coats. From noon until six in the evening they could be seen in their lounge suits and after six o’clock the clothing was dependant on the occasion they were to attend. To give you an idea of the outfits these men wore we dug up a few stories on some men’s wedding pieces that we have in our collection.

On September 17th, 1913 Grace Nellie Ganong married Willis Hill Wanamaker in Kings County, New Brunswick. One piece of Willis’s wedding attire would have been this shirt. Willis wore this simple white shirt of the Cushion brand. We also have a few other pieces from Willis’s wardrobe including a white tie, as well as a black tie, a couple of shirt cuffs and a few pairs of socks. The shirt, though not flashy, is incredibly well made

Flashy comes in with our next fashion piece. This blue, black and red striped vest with mauve and cream lines was donated to the museum by Ralph S. O’Neill. The vest was worn at the wedding of William and Mary Ganong in 1847 and passed down to Margaret Irene (Ganong) O’Neill, then to her daughter, Ellen Catherine (O’Neill) McKnight then to Ralph. Born on December 21st, 1821 in Springfield, William Ganong was a farmer who lived for many years at Snider Mountain. His wife, Mary Catherine Erb, was born on December 27th, 1827. On December 30th, 1847 the two were married at Trinity Church. The two had six sons and three daughters (tragically, in April of 1883 Mary and three of her children --Edward Miles, Howard Burnham, and Sophia Elizabeth -- all died within a week from measles).

Not to be outdone by the striped number above, our next piece is a black velvet – yes I said velvet - vest from 1859 – how many men do you know that still wear velvet? I bet the list is very short! This velvet vest belonged to Mr. H. Price of Midland, Kings County. The vest has double rows of 10 black cloth covered buttons down the front and also has a black waist strap.

Our second velvety piece is the wedding coat of Duncan Leonard McLeod. Mr. McLeod of Portage Vale wore this coat in 1861 when he was married to Catherine Musgrove of Lower Millstream. Aside from the black velvet collar being an interesting highlight of this coat, the five clothed buttons have a floral design. Very fashion forward!

It’s obvious from these men’s fashion from the late 1800s and early 1900s that the lads of Kings County could hold their own when it came to style! Maybe it’s time we said ‘no’ to today’s jeans and t-shirts and instead say ‘yes’ to the vest!  

Our thanks to summer student Jamie Pearson for writing this post for our museum blog!


  1. Very interesting and well-teamed with the genealogy connected with the men's clothing as well as the last post of the bride's attire.

    1. Thanks so much for the comments! We love to "marry" our artifacts with our genealogy research (if you'll pardon the pun!)